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Our blue box is now two years old! To commemorate the Google Mini's second birthday, the enterprise team has developed an upgrade with greater security features and the ability to search across various business applications, all from the same search box. We've also made the Mini a better fit for public sites by integrating Google Analytics and adding the ability to generate Google Sitemaps. There's more about how the Mini is growing up on the Google Enterprise blog.

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The one and only Dr. Kai-Fu Lee visited our Seattle office last week to speak with some 150 Googlers and guests about everything from future plans between our Beijing and Seattle offices to the way the Internet is used in China. Watch the video [warning: 53 mins]--and consider joining our pan-Pacific collaboration.




Update: The video of the talk is now also available on YouTube [due to it's length the video is in six parts].

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Many people come to Google.com to navigate the web, but are you aware that you can use it to navigate the real world as well? Over the past few months, we've been hard at work making it easier to find and compare local businesses and services right from the standard web results page. Here's what we've come up with:
From now on, you'll see this every time you search for a place, business, or other local information. In addition to providing the basic contact information and map locations for several choices at the top of the page, we also show ratings and provide one-click access to reviews on the search results page so that you can make more informed decisions about where you want to go.

Here are a few specific examples of how you can use Google to search and compare local businesses and services.

We're really excited to offer this easier access to qualitative information about local spots. We find the reviews and ratings generated by others in the know to be quite useful when we want to head to a restaurant, catch a movie, or stay at a hotel -- and we hope you will too.

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While orkut users love having an online social network, we understand that a good deal of your social life happens offline. We wanted orkut to enrich the offline social life of its members, so we thought we could either give you computers with really long cords or we could bring orkut to the device you carry around in your pocket: the mobile phone. Thus the idea for an orkut SMS service was born.

With orkut's new SMS feature, you can scrap your friends, look up their contact information and receive scrap notifications. Now you can send scraps from the bus, bar or bathroom, and your friends can get notified of those scraps when on bicycle, beach or bed. Along with the standard orkut features, we've included a few hidden goodies for the adventurous to find.

This week, orkut SMS will become available to orkut members in Brazil who use Claro as their mobile service provider. When the feature becomes available to you, a message will be displayed when you sign in to your account. We hope to expand soon to other mobile service providers in Brazil and around the globe.

So next time you want to scrap your friend Sergio about a party, just text message orkut with "scrap Sergio it's party time man!"

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Many of us aren't lucky enough to experience one of nature's most glorious sights—the beauty of the sunrise—every day, let alone on demand. That is, until today. Now there's a Google Earth layer that brings the sun's ascent right to your computer screen, and Google Earth aficionados can also see video vignettes drawn from Discovery HD Theater's "Sunrise Earth" program.

To view the videos, open Google Earth and select the Sunrise Earth layer under Discovery Networks. Follow the links in the pop-up window to experience the sights and sounds of one of nature's most beautiful phenomena. Watch dawn rise over Stonehenge, Mayan pyramids, and Buddhist temples as it has for thousands of years. See the Katmai Bears emerge from their seven-month slumber to greet a new day. Witness the sun's light bringing life to natural habitats around the world, from the forests of Costa Rica and the coast of New England, to the foothills of Turkey and the glaciers of Alaska.

Whether you catch Sunrise Earth on Discovery HD Theater or via Google Earth, you'll see the world in a whole new light.

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We believe that getting kids interested in science, computers, and technology early on is very important, so we were honored last weekend to receive the "FIRST LEGO® League Outreach" award at the Northern California FLL championship tournament. FLL is a program encouraging fourth- to eighth-grade kids to study science and technology. Each fall, student teams (who compete at the local, national and international level) build autonomous LEGO® robots to tackle a set of challenge missions -- and finish as many as they can in 2-½ minutes! This year's challenge: called Nano Quest.

We hosted a couple of FLL meetings and put on our own Google Qualifying Tournament (beta) in December. We loved hosting these events -- they are a great way to reach out to the community, and putting on the tournament was fun! We had a couple of dozen Google volunteers, several FLL volunteers, and 16 student teams -- about 150 people in all. (The winning team from our Northern California region will go on to the World FLL Festival -- 104 teams from 38 countries -- to be held in April in Atlanta.)

So we thought that was that, until next season. Neither we or our partners at Playing@Learning (who coordinate regional FLL events in Northern California, along with the FIRST Vex Challenge, a more ambitious program for high school students) expected what happened next: other Silicon Valley companies took notice, and are now planning to get involved. That's a great kind of viral marketing -- the more outreach, the better.

FLL teams form between May and September, with qualifying tournaments in late November or early December. So if you're between 9 and 14, and robotics and a LEGO® challenge sound like a lot of fun -- there's bound to be a competition for you.

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I'm often asked about how Google and search engines work. One key question is: how does Google know what parts of a website the site owner wants to have show up in search results? Can publishers specify that some parts of the site should be private and non-searchable? The good news is that those who publish on the web have a lot of control over which pages should appear in search results.

The key is a simple file called robots.txt that has been an industry standard for many years. It lets a site owner control how search engines access their web site. With robots.txt you can control access at multiple levels -- the entire site, through individual directories, pages of a specific type, down to individual pages. Effective use of robots.txt gives you a lot of control over how your site is searched, but its not always obvious how to achieve exactly what you want. This is the first of a series of posts on how to use robots.txt to control access to your content.

What does robots.txt do?
The web is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you might think it's a lot of work maintaining your website, but that's just peanuts to the whole web. (with profound apologies to Douglas Adams)
Search engines like Google read through all this information and create an index of it. The index allows a search engine to take a query from users and show all the pages on the web that match it.

In order to do this Google has a set of computers that continually crawl the web. They have a list of all the websites that Google knows about and read all the pages on each of those sites. Together these machines are known as the Googlebot. In general you want Googlebot to access your site so your web pages can be found by people searching on Google.

However, you may have a few pages on your site you don't want in Google's index. For example, you might have a directory that contains internal logs, or you may have news articles that require payment to access. You can exclude pages from Google's crawler by creating a text file called robots.txt and placing it in the root directory. The robots.txt file contains a list of the pages that search engines shouldn't access. Creating a robots.txt is straightforward and it allows you a sophisticated level of control over how search engines can access your web site.

Fine-grained control
In addition to the robots.txt file -- which allows you to concisely specify instructions for a large number of files on your web site -- you can use the robots META tag for fine-grain control over individual pages on your site. To implement this, simply add specific META tags to HTML pages to control how each individual page is indexed. Together, robots.txt and META tags give you the flexibility to express complex access policies relatively easily.

A simple example
Here is a simple example of a robots.txt file.
User-Agent: Googlebot
Disallow: /logs/
The User-Agent line specifies that the next section is a set of instructions just for the Googlebot. All the major search engines read and obey the instructions you put in robots.txt, and you can specify different rules for different search engines if you want to. The Disallow line tells Googlebot not to access files in the logs sub-directory of your site. The contents of the pages you put into the logs directory will not show up in Google search results.

Preventing access to a file
If you have a news article on your site that is only accessible by registered users, you'll want it excluded from Google's results. To do this, simply add a META tag into the html file, so it starts something like:
<html>
<head>
<meta name="googlebot" content="noindex">
...
This stops Google from indexing this file. META tags are particularly useful if you have permission to edit the individual files but not the site-wide robots.txt. They also allow you to specify complex access-control policies on a page-by-page basis.

Learn more
You can find out more about robots.txt at http://www.robotstxt.org and at Google's Webmaster help center, which contains lots of helpful information, including:

We've also done several posts in our webmaster blog about robots.txt that you may find useful, such as:
There is also a useful list of the bots used by the major search engines: http://www.robotstxt.org/wc/active/html/index.html

Next time...
Coming soon: a post detailing the use of robots and metatags, and another on specific examples for common cases.

Update: Added a sentence to paragraph 9 on access-control policies.

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We take the Internet for granted throughout the U.S. and the westernized world; these days we expect to be "always on." But in large parts of the globe, this isn't yet so.

The Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC), a non-profit organization based at the University of Oregon, is working to change that, by bringing potential recipients of computing and networking hardware together with potential donors. By coordinating these donations, the NSRC undertakes projects to connect Internet-neglected areas in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, the Caribbean and elsewhere--and they've done so since 1992. (Read about their accomplishments.)

Over the years they've found that the most difficult--and most useful--equipment to obtain is routers, switches and wireless equipment. In many cases, a single, relatively inexpensive piece of hardware is the critical factor preventing a network from becoming operational, but in developing areas, networking hardware can be difficult or prohibitively expensive to obtain. We're pleased to support the NSRC by donating our decommissioned networking hardware. Thus far, we've heard that some of our retired switches have been sent to universities across Africa and in Guyana and Thailand. More will be shipping out in the coming months to universities and research institutes in, among others, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Afghanistan and Vietnam.

If your company would like to give financial assistance or hardware, or if you want to look into volunteering, please get in touch. It will truly help connect the world.

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Today the Build Your Campus in 3D Competition begins. This spring, you and your (presumably equally artistic) friends can honor your campus turf as you hone your 3D design skills just by modeling your school's campus buildings in Google SketchUp, geo-reference them in Google Earth, and submit them through the competition website to earn lasting online glory. And the winners get a visit to Google, all expenses paid.

You're eligible if you're a higher education student in the U. S. or Canada. You can team up with other students, or take the project on yourself. (To do the best work possible, we suggest you have a faculty advisor.) The deadline for entries is June 1, and the winning entries will be posted to the 3D Warehouse by July 10.

We’re pretty jazzed that our panel of judges includes Bobby Brooks from Walt Disney Imagineering, Ken Harsha from Electronic Arts, Janet Martin from Communication Arts Inc. Paul Seletsky from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Gary Smith from Green Mountain Geographics LTD, and Ken M Tse from HKS Architects, Inc.

We hope to see your stomping grounds soon.

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In November, we officially closed our acquisition of YouTube, and since then we've received a number of questions about what will happen next. The summary is that Google Video and YouTube will continue to play to their respective strengths. But here's a bit more detail:

Google's strength -- and its history -- is grounded in search and in innovating technologies to make more information more available and accessible. YouTube, meanwhile, excels at being a leading content destination with a dynamic community of users who create, watch and share videos worldwide.

Google search results already include links to content that's hosted on YouTube. Starting today, YouTube video results will appear in the Google Video search index: when you click on YouTube thumbnails, you will be taken to YouTube.com to experience the videos. Over time, Google Video will become even more comprehensive as it evolves into a service where you can search for the world's online video content, irrespective of where it may be hosted.

This is part of Google's overall goal to give you the highest quality search results possible. For example, some users who do a Google search for Martin Luther King, Jr. may want to find websites about him. Others may want to see images of him. And others may want to watch video footage...

YouTube, as we've stated previously, will remain an independent subsidiary of Google, and will continue to operate separately. Google will support YouTube by providing access to search and monetization platforms and, when/where YouTube launches internationally, to international resources. YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen and the rest of the YouTube team will continue to innovate exciting new ways for people to "broadcast themselves."

Earlier this week, we announced one example of innovation in monetization and distribution with a new AdSense video test. We'll be working with a wide set of content providers, grouping together high quality video content from providers with high quality ads and offering them as playlists which publishers can select from and display on their AdSense sites. (There's more about the test on the AdSense blog.)

Today represents just the first step in our plan to bring you a comprehensive video search and content platform. We'll provide ongoing updates as they unfold.

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Online groups have become a great tool for managing and sharing activities and ideas for a defined group of people. Back in October we introduced a new version of Google Groups (in beta) in the hopes that it would help people work together better. We received tons of feedback, and today we're dropping the "beta" and unveiling a number of new features in more than a dozen languages. If you're already in a Google Group, you'll be transitioned automatically, and if you're new to a group, welcome!

Now you can customize the look of your group, create and edit web pages, upload and share files (including photos), and view member profiles. And for your discussions, there's no need to struggle to follow interrupted conversations, as Google Groups now includes the same style of organization that Gmail users love. Take a tour to learn more.

And if you're wondering how you might use a group, how about:

We hope you enjoy Google Groups; we really enjoy working on it, and it's been very rewarding to see all the useful things you and so many others have done with it.

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Google New York is sponsoring a speaker series that will bring technology industry leaders in to our offices to share their unique perspectives. Speakers will come from Google and beyond to cover topics ranging from the history of software development to the future of the Internet. With this series, we hope to create a collegial atmosphere where members of the technical community can learn from and get to know one another.

To start the year off, you're invited to a talk called "Physics, Speed, and Imprecision: What Works and What Doesn't in Software, and Why," given by our very own Adam Bosworth on Monday, January 29th.

Over beer and wine, Adam will discuss why machine learning and natural language seem to work today when they didn't in the 90s, and why Ajax is successful now when it wasn't earlier. The reasons lie in the realm of physics and customer psychology, particularly in our need for speed and limited tolerance for imprecision.

Please join us, but registration is limited, so hurry.

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Berthier Ribeiro-Neto, Engineering Site Director

There are only 5 days left until registration closes for Google Code Jam Latin America 2007. So far over 4,000 competitors have signed up for a chance to showcase their programming skills and win an all expenses paid trip to Google's Brazil engineering office, where they will compete for R$75,000 (Brazilian reales) in cash and prizes. The finals will be held on March 1. Latin Americans have registered in large numbers from Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Chile, Venezuela and Ecuador as well as many other countries.

The top 50 finalists will be flown to Belo Horizonte to show us what they've got. Think you've got what it takes to Code Jam? Click here to register!

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When I learned in October that Google had established a new scholarship program with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), I was excited. The number of African-Americans in the field of engineering is critically low: according to the National Science Foundation, as recently as 2003, African-Americans accounted for less than four percent of the total scientific and engineering workforce. When I was an undergrad, I applied for scholarships similar to the UNCF/Google Scholarship Program; those few opportunities were instrumental in my career development.

So it's especially meaningful that I've been able to participate in the program's review process. We will have eight U.S. undergraduate students who will each receive a $5,000 scholarship toward their 2006-2007 academic year tuition. The selected scholars will also be invited on a trip to our Mountain View headquarters this spring. While at the Googleplex they'll have the opportunity to meet each other and attend technical talks and professional development workshops, not to mention explore the San Francisco Bay area. We hope this program will encourage students to excel in their studies in years to come, inspire them to become role models and leaders, and attract more African-American students to the fields of science and technology. All congratulations to this year's winners:

  • Olaniyi Bajulaiye, Benedict College
  • Desmond Baldwin, Morehouse College
  • Keitha Griffin, Alabama A&M University
  • Jennifer Hairston, Wilberforce University
  • Keith Morren, Florida Memorial University
  • Derrick Nnaji, Prairie View A&M University
  • Lawrence Secrease, Florida A&M University
  • Shantavious Williams, Alabama A&M University

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At Google, we get excited about making all kinds of information accessible to everyone. The more up-to-date the information, the more valuable it is. This is particularly true in the world of finance; information, and timing of that information, is money. Today, real-time quotes are not freely and easily available on the web. Some websites offer one real-time quote at a time, but typically only after you have enrolled in a service and/or signed a complicated legal agreement. Other sites approach the problem differently and show you streaming delayed data, but that doesn't solve the problem either -- it masks it. What's really important is getting free, easy and fast access to real-time quotes so you know how the market or your company is doing now, not as of twenty minutes ago.

As a result, we've worked with the SEC, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and our D.C. trade association, NetCoalition, to find a way to bring stock data to Google users in a way that benefits users and is practical for all parties. We have encouraged the SEC to ensure that this data can be made available to our users at fair and reasonable rates, and applaud their recent efforts to review this issue. Today, the NYSE has moved the issue a great step forward with a proposal to the SEC which if approved, would allow you to see real-time, last-sale prices across all Google properties including Google Finance, Personalized Google, Mobile, and of course, Google.com. It won't matter if you're on Wall Street or Main Street -- you'll have free, easy and fast access to real-time prices from NYSE on Google.

So stay tuned on our progress with this. We're excited that financial data as we know it is about to change. In the meantime, set up your portfolio on Google Finance today.

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I don't need a magazine to tell me I work for the best company around. They didn't stop by the Santa Monica office where I work, or they would have had a much easier time figuring it out. I could have told them all about working here over a gourmet lunch, in December, on our rooftop deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean - we're just 6 blocks away!



The Santa Monica office is a small but growing enclave with +200 Googlers. We're a close-knit bunch, enjoying company-sponsored happy hours every week at different Santa Monica hotspots plus several other non-work functions. What's great about working in Santa Monica is the opportunity to really make a big splash in the "sea of Google" with lots of visibility at all levels of the company. We work on projects ranging from customer-facing ad systems to Picasa to Google Video to the Google Search Appliance, and more.

OK, all for now. Back to the salt mines. Want to join me?

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That’s right, Google is looking for the hottest models on the planet. They can come from any city in the world, and they can be any height, but they must be interesting to look at, well-made and lightweight.

Of course, by "lightweight" we mean that the file size should be reasonably small.

If you’re confused, you may not have heard about the recent updates of Google Earth, Google SketchUp, and the 3D Warehouse. With these launches, all the pieces are now in place for contributors to the 3D Warehouse to see their creations show up in Google Earth for all the world to see.

Here’s how it works:
1. Download Google SketchUp. Create a 3D model of something in your neighborhood, city or state -- your house, your business, your favorite restaurant, or the statue of Buckminster Fuller in the center of town. Be sure to geo-locate your model in Google Earth.

2. Upload your model to the 3D Warehouse. Don’t forget to put your name on it (if it shows up in Google Earth, you’ll want the credit).

3. Download the most recent version of Google Earth (a necessary step, as older versions don’t support super models). Launch Google Earth, go to the 3D Buildings folder under the Layers tab in the lefthand sidebar, and activate the “Best of 3D Warehouse.” Then fly to the location of the model you submitted. It might be there!

If you don’t find it, keep checking -- sometimes it takes several weeks for models to appear in Google Earth. In the meantime, visit “Best of 3D Warehouse” to see some that have made the cut. (Here are the guidelines for building "super" models.) Fly to Denver CO, Boulder CO, New York, NY and Calgary, Canada to start. Then investigate other cities to see if they contain 3D buildings yet.

In short, 3D modelers, Google Earth is your palette; Google SketchUp is your brush. Show the world what you've got!

Update: Added a short list of cities already featuring "best of" models.

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[We often host visitors in Google offices. Just recently, as part of a Chamber of Commerce program, a group of Seattle-area high school students visited our Kirkland office. The point of such visits is to inspire teens to think about working in technology some day. Here's a firsthand report from Jenna Warman, a student at Lake Washington High School. - Editor.]

I had no idea there was a Google campus located in Kirkland, but recently 35 of us filed off the bus and into the large brown building. As the large metal doors slid open, we all fell out of the elevator and took in our very first sights of Google.

What I liked most about the Google building were the different Google Doodles all along the walls and the lava lamps in the reception area that were Google colors. Then we met some of the Google workers, who showed us their current projects they had been working on, such as Google Maps and Google Talk. I had never known about Google Talk or Gmail until then. After that they each grabbed a small group of kids and led us up and down the hallways showing us the different offices and mini kitchens. My tour guide explained that at Google the employees do not just sit in their offices all day -- they walk around and visit each other. The environment and atmosphere seemed warm, welcoming and friendly.



When the tours were finished we all piled into the reception area again and we all squished together to take a group photo so we could always remember our wonderful visit to Google. But wait, it did not end there -- we got back on the bus and were driven to Carillon Point where we would be eating lunch with many different people with many different and interesting jobs. We had the privilege to listen to Dr. Bonnie Dunbar talk about her exhilarating adventures up into outer space and the Museum of Flight. Listening to this amazing and courageous woman explain about the different experiences she had in space, about the telescope they were working on the space station, it kind of made me want to become an astronaut.

After that, it was time to go back to school and brag about what an amazing opportunity we'd gotten, and all of the wonderful things we saw and learned about at the Google campus. The last thing that I have to say is thank you to all of the people that gave me this wonderful opportunity. I hope other young students will be able to experience something like this during their high school career.

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When we set up an R&D shop in downtown Kirkland, Washington two years ago, we hoped to attract the best talent in the Pacific Northwest -- folks who are serious about their coffee and don't especially want to move to Silicon Valley. Since then we've attracted many engineers who were tickled silly about working on large clusters of several thousands of machines, not to mention shipping web and client-based consumer apps used by millions of people. In the last two years, our Kirkland engineering team has conceived and launched a dozen products ranging from core search product improvements to Ads Optimization, Sitemaps and Webmaster Central, plus such consumer applications as Google Talk, Chat, Pack, Video, Music Trends, and mobile SMS. (Here's a summary of what we've done out of the Kirkland office.)

But it's not all work -- there's the food. Like a single day's lunch menu this week: roasted turkey breast, chili red bean patties, scalloped potatoes, roasted cranberry & Satsuma orange salad, classic clam chowder, carrot and coriander soup. You really can't operate in the Seattle area without offering good food, of course, so we offer as much good fuel -- fresh, healthy, and, whenever possible, locally-grown -- as it takes!

So if you're an engineer, UE expert or product manager who loves coffee (not to mention the mountains and the sea) -- and you want to have a great time while you're building world-changing products, please consider our Northwest outpost.

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Programmers from Latin America and the Caribbean ready to test their coding skills against the region's best can register now for Google Code Jam Latin America. The top 50 contestants win an all-expenses-paid trip to our Brazilian engineering office in Belo Horizonte to compete in the finals. Registration is open until January 23, when the first round of the competition begins -- spread the word!